Streetcar Line

Us Versus Them

What conservatives believe is right.

By 8.7.09

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We are for freedom, they are for coercion.

We are for personal choice when other lives aren't at stake. They are for choice only when the choice involves other lives being snuffed out.

We are for personal responsibility enforced by self-restraint and social norms. They are for responsibility imposed from without by government bureaucrats.

We conservatives are for the ideals that make America America. They, the liberals, are for transforming America into an imagined utopia enforced by command and control, based on values alien to the great American tradition.

We are for conserving, through private action, what is best in human nature, with reliance on the grace of God. They are for catalyzing, through government action, a change in the very nature of man, with reliance on the ability to imprison those who oppose their brave new world.

We are for health care decisions being made by doctors and their patients, perhaps within parameters established by freely chosen insurance. We believe in the ability, through health savings accounts, to self-insure; we believe in the privilege of buying insurance across state lines, or through self-selected insurance pools -- and in the right to refuse insurance at all if we so desire. They are for having distant bureaucrats make health care decisions that are binding and irreversible, and in phasing private insurance completely out of existence. They believe that everybody should be forced into insurance pools run or regulated heavily by the government, in which one size fits all and cost controls are more important than individual decisions.

We think the American people are smart enough to choose our own cars and own hierarchy of values. They think Americans can't be trusted with automotive autonomy because our values aren't in sync with saving the planet.

We believe that individual states ought to decide whether to allow energy production off their coasts. They believe the federal government should save states from the supposed environmental degradation of offshore drilling. (Never mind, by the way, that far more environmental damage is caused by leaks and spills from tankers bringing foreign energy to the United States than is caused by leaks and spills from pipelines carrying domestically produced oil and gas.)

We believe that the productive industry and ingenuity of the American people can, with time, overcome almost any economic obstacle. They believe that only a self-appointed elite can channel American restlessness in productive directions.

We believe that low taxes inspire progress. They believe that high taxes are needed for government to pay for progress -- and to punish those who earn "too much" for the likings of self-proclaimed "progressives."

We believe that government must be limited not merely for the sake of fiscal responsibility, but for the sake of liberty. They believe that government must be large in order to insure fairness, and that fiscal responsibility therefore requires ever-higher taxes. We believe (within reason) that government is best which governs least. They believe that government is best which governs most strenuously.

We believe in equality of liberty. They believe in equality of result achieved, implicitly, at the point of a gun.

We believe in ordered liberty. They believe in libertinism.

We believe in a moral order rooted in God's glory and in the wisdom of the ages. They believe in a moral (dis)order that is man-made, post-modern, and not reliant on -- and sometimes hostile to the very notion of -- God.

We believe parents usually are, and should be, the best educators of our children. They believe parents can't be trusted even to choose which schools their children attend.

We think the principle of subsidiarity makes sense -- that most manner of things are best handled at the most local level possible. They think the might of centralization makes sense -- that efficiencies are greater when the scale is larger, and that other considerations (such as choice, liberty, and individual decision-making) must bow to the mandate of the enlightened central planners.

We believe that the United States is a moral actor on the world stage, and that American enlightened self-interest serves the greater cause of humanity. They believe that the United States is an immoral colossus whose appetites must be restrained, and that American interests are inimical to the human dignity of oppressed peoples.

We believe peace is achieved through strength. They believe peace is achieved through self-sacrifice.

We believe our enemies are our enemies, as identified by their actions. They believe our enemies are misunderstood, and can be made to befriend us through our own earnestness.

We want to maintain what Margaret Thatcher called "the alliance of the English-speaking peoples," because our common politico-cultural values are a guarantor of liberty in our own countries and a force for freedom worldwide. They want to undercut the hegemony of English even in our own nation, because all cultures are supposedly of equal value and because both our language and the values of those who speak it are roadblocks against the self-expression of other cultures.

We are proud to be Americans. They are embarrassed by American prosperity. We feel blessed. They feel guilt-ridden. We think human life is a gift from God. They think human life is a tool to be manipulated, and even discarded, for the greater good of Mother Earth.

We are right. They are oh so wrong, on every level. We must work to ensure that the right prevails.

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About the Author
Quin Hillyer is a senior editor of The American Spectator and a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom. Follow him on Twitter @QuinHillyer.